“Oh, no. Please, no. Here he comes. What now?”
Raging Rob appears by your side with balled fists and furrowed eyebrows. He hasn’t said a word, but his heavy sighs and the dramatic way he slams his coffee cup down speak volumes. Enter your queasy stomach and your colleague’s ruffled feathers.
Once Rob opens his mouth, accusations–and spittle–fly out. Apparently, you are working with the chart he needs at that very moment, and he thinks you’re doing it on purpose. Raging Rob’s reputation for intimidating, yelling, and being disrespectful quickly clears the room.
At this critical moment, you must choose the best course of action. Do you give him an equine tranquilizer? Do you yell back and defend yourself? Or, do you sit there and take it like a pathetic schmuck?
3-2-1… “He’s Going to Blow!”
Angry and hostile people are chronic belligerents who create a negative environment. To overcome inferiority and anxiety while bolstering their own feelings of self-worth, they act in a superior and aggressive way. They are generally unwilling to compromise, yet demand time and attention as they shift focus from the issue at hand to something petty.
They tend to talk in loud voices or even yell, much like an adult version of a temper tantrum. Angry people see themselves as victims, which allows them to rationalize their behavior. Hostility quickly turns into accusations and personal attacks during arguments. You are seen as an opponent rather than a teammate.
Is he also a sadist? These individuals love to catch you in a mistake and make you squirm. While correction is merited at times, it should never take the shape of habitual, cruel, verbal abuse from a brow beater.
Getting Him to Simmer Down
To break the cycle of anger begetting anger, focus on the results to be produced. Talk about what can be done to make things better. Here are some tactics to use with Rob, whether he’s your colleague, subordinate, or boss:
Keep your cool.
Dealing with an angry person requires tact and sensitivity. Show him that you take him seriously, but inform him that you won’t tolerate this type of behavior.
“Rob, I understand you are concerned about what happened here, but I won’t continue discussing it in this way. I won’t tolerate yelling or slamming things in my presence.”
When you come face-to-face with him, maintain control of your emotions. Losing your temper and earning a nomination for “Best Scream” will only fuel the situation.
Let him vent without interruption. The simple act of listening will help you understand why he is agitated. Focus on his concerns (not his anger).
If his anger is caused by some mistake you made, do not hesitate to apologize immediately. Never make excuses or give justifications. Acknowledging your mistake could succeed in defusing his temper.
Proceed with communication only after eliminating the option of physical harm. If that is not possible, leave immediately. If you are not the direct target of someone’s rage, it might be best to avoid interfering. You don’t want to provoke the situation further. Try to mediate only if you suspect the potential for violence.
If You Are the Rager…
While we used “Raging Rob” to characterize this personality at work, it could just as easily be “Raging Rebecca.” Anger takes many forms, not just yelling or throwing things. It varies from rage, violence, and fury on one end to pouting and stubbornness on the opposite end. In between are:
Do you recognize any of these forms of anger in yourself?
There are times when anger is helpful, such as motivating you to take action. You don’t always have to repress anger or view it as a “negative” emotion. For example, if you’re resentful that your boss never acknowledges your efforts, you can use that angry energy to find a better job or take a class to improve your conflict communication skills.
Anger has many sources, including self-sacrifice, lack of acknowledgement, ego, pride, and expectations. Focus on your triggers, or hot buttons, to understand them and then forgive yourself for them. It is the relinquishment of the need for approval of others and the turning inward toward self for understanding and approval that you can find release from the anger.
Once you do, you’ll find that the people who push your buttons disappear from your life, or they stop pushing your buttons, or you no longer react to the button-pushing the way you once did.